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Pests feast on swathes of paddy fields in Arunachal’s Siang belt


GUWAHATI: Pest attack at vast swathes of paddy fields in Arunachal Pradesh has left the farmers at their wit’s end.

Standing crops turned yellowish in the attack by pests such as white-backed hopper, brown planthopper, green leafhopper, and spiny beetle. The incidents were reported from the entire Siang belt against the backdrop of incessant rains.

The infestation was first noticed in the last week of August. Official sources said the damage had been widespread. As a contingency measure, the government is trying to treat paddy in the unaffected and less affected areas with the use of chemicals and equipment.

“Infestation is not by just one pest. There are several of them. The white-backed hopper is a vector of tungro virus. The infestation was transmitted by this vector,” the state’s Agriculture Director, Anong Lego, told this newspaper.

He said given the different timings of sowing and paddy varieties, the damage was not uniform.

“Infestation depends on varieties. If a variety has more resistant powers, then the infestation will be less. If it is susceptible, the infestation will be more. The infestation has been reported from the entire Siang belt. Paddy farming in six to seven districts has been affected,” Lego said.

With its suitable agro-climatic conditions and available land for cultivation, the Siang belt stands out in Arunachal’s agriculture and allied sectors.

Lego said the Agriculture Department had directed the officers in the affected districts to procure chemicals and equipment to fight the menace in other areas vulnerable to pest attack.

“When the economic threshold level is more than 50%, we have to go for chemical control. We have asked the officers to procure some chemical and equipment instead of waiting for financial sanction,” he said, adding “The extent of damage is being assessed. The farmers are at a loss. They will get less produce this time around”.

In recent months, agricultural farming in parts of the Northeast had come under attack from fall armyworms, inchworms, and “strange” grasshoppers.